Intelligence firm: House panel's subpoenas 'clear abuse of power'

Story highlights

  • In a 17-page letter to Rep. Devin Nunes, Fusion attorneys objected to the subpoenas
  • The letter is expected to intensify the fight between the two sides

(CNN)The intelligence firm that produced the dossier of memos alleging Russian efforts to aid Donald Trump's presidential campaign is objecting to subpoenas sent by the chairman of the House intelligence committee calling them a "clear abuse of power."

Californian Republican Rep. Devin Nunes signed the subpoenas that were sent on October 4 to Fusion GPS, the firm founded by Glenn Simpson, requesting documents and depositions of key members of the private intelligence firm beginning this week.
"Fusion GPS has cooperated with all legitimate inquiries into Russian interference in the 2016 election," said Joshua Levy, an attorney for Fusion GPS. "Through his improper actions and bad faith, Mr. Nunes has demonstrated that this is not such an inquiry. His subpoenas are a clear abuse of power: They are designed to obfuscate the facts and conjure up rank conspiracy theories at the behest of the president and his most obsequious allies in Congress."
    Nunes stepped aside from the House intelligence committee's investigation into Russia's interference in the election in April following an ethics investigation into his handling of classified information. Nunes delegated authority on the Russia matter to Republican Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas. A source familiar with the matter previously told CNN that all Russia-related subpoenas have been approved by Conaway. Conaway at the time confirmed to CNN that he had signed off on the recent subpoenas.
    In a 17-page letter to Nunes, attorneys for Fusion said they object to the subpoenas because they violate First Amendment rights to engage in free speech and political activity.
    "Should you compel any of our three clients to appear at the scheduled deposition, they will invoke their constitutional privileges not to testify. Since that will be the case, we ask that the Committee excuse them from appearing," the letter says. "Enforcement of this subpoena would certainly chill the exercise of confidential opposition research in elections and might put a halt to it, once and for all, further depriving our fellow citizens of information before they vote for their next president."
    The firm alleges Nunes is using the subpoenas to also conduct a parallel inquiry to the committee's investigation and aid a second inquiry by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. "These subpoenas seek to help Senator Grassley obtain the answer to another irrelevant and inappropriate question -- the identities of Fusion GPS' clients," the letter said.
    The letter, which is a sharply worded response directed at the committee chairman, is expected to intensify the fight between the two sides.
    The Fusion letter notes that the subpoenas include a reference to the Central Intelligence Agency although it is not clear whether that is a mistake or suggestion that the committee is also planning to subpoena the CIA. The subpoena states: "Number 6. The terms 'you' and 'your' as used in schedule a of this subpoena include all offices, individuals or entities within the Central Intelligence Agency, including without limitation, anyone presently or formerly employed by assigned or to detailed there," according to a person who has seen the subpoena and read it to CNN.
    "Indeed, in your haste to circumvent your own committee's investigation, rules, process and Ranking Member, you and your staff sent us subpoenas directing 'the Central Intelligence Agency' -- with which our clients have no relationship -- to produce documents," the letter says.
    Despite his decision to step aside Nunes previously sought to subpoena the CIA, FBI and NSA to probe the identities of Trump associates that were allegedly unmasked during the transition from the Obama administration to Trump. Two GOP staff members also flew to London to ask Christopher Steele, the former British MI-6 officer who pulled together the dossier, to appear before the committee. Nunes in August signed subpoenas to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI director Christopher Wray seeking records relating to the FBI's relationship with Steele. CNN previously reported that Steele met with investigators for Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller.
    "I am concerned about any subpoenas that are issued on a unilateral basis without consultation of the minority, and that was the case with the subpoenas written to DOJ as well as to Fusion GPS," Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, told CNN last week.
    Schiff wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post over the weekend alleging the White House is trying to rush the Russian investigations to reach a conclusion. "There are growing calls from the White House and outside parties aligned with the President to halt the congressional investigations rather than allow the evidence to dictate the pace and breadth of our inquiry."
    The subpoenas to Fusion follow a closed-door meeting in August when Simpson provided 10 hours of interviews with staff from the Senate judiciary committee. Fusion has asked the committee to make a transcript of the interview public.
    The letter says the subpoenas requested testimony from two other principles of Fusion on October 18 and a deposition of Simpson on November 8. The subpoenas also set deadlines of October 11 and 17 for document production. Fusion said it sought a two-week extension, which was denied. Nunes staff, it said, required a response by October 16.